MHAIRI Black is demanding the Scotland Office explain “huge and indefensible” increases in spending on the Tory government department.

The SNP shadow Scottish secretary spoke out after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed overall spending in Alister Jack’s office had risen by nearly 50% in five years.

Black said the Scotland Office had become redundant with devolution and was now “little more than a Tory propaganda front”.

The FOI report found spending on communications has nearly tripled – rising from £509,343 in 2013/14 to £1,351,092 in 2018/19.

The SNP condemned a rise in “spin doctor” spending, with the total number of Scotland Office communications staff rising from 6 in 2011/12 to 15 in 2018/19.

The department has spent increasing amounts of public money on “social media promotion”, “paid-for listings in search results”, and other “advertising”, with expenditure rising from zero in 2013/14 to £58,046 in 2018/19.

Overall spending in that period increased by 48%, from £4,949,000 to £7,313,000.

Black said the outlay, which came amid severe Tory austerity cuts, was unjustifiable.

“It beggars belief that the Tory government has been wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash on huge and indefensible increases in spending on this zombie department,” she said.

Westminster’s Scotland Office has become utterly redundant since devolution and is now little more than a Tory propaganda front – with Scottish taxpayers left to foot the bill. Families who have suffered a decade of deep Tory cuts to public services and incomes, will find it inexplicable that the Tories have splurged millions of our money up the wall on parties, spin doctors, and advertising for a department that has failed to stand up for Scotland.”

The FOI also revealed the total number of Scotland Office staff has risen by 45% – from 58 in 2011/12 to 79 in 2018/19.

Black continued: “It is unforgivable that Tory Scottish Secretaries sat on their hands while Westminster slashed Scotland’s budget by billions, and did nothing to stop Scotland being dragged out of the EU against our will – leaving many people rightly wondering why the department exists at all.

“Unlike the Tories, the SNP will always stand up for Scotland’s interests. The people of Scotland must have a choice over our future so we can get away from the broken Westminster system and build a fairer and independent country.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland represents Scottish interests at the heart of Whitehall and promotes the work of the UK Government in Scotland. That includes explaining UK Government policies to people across the country.

“At a time when the Scottish Government wants further unwanted and divisive constitutional change, the role of the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland ‎is more important than ever.

“People in Scotland chose to remain part of a strong UK and the UK Government is working hard for them.”